by Victor Thomas

Chapter 1


September 1998

Paxton glanced at me nervously, then quickly looked away. I grinned. I'd waited a lifetime for this day, the day when the balance of power shifted and I became the Alpha Male at last. I'd been trailing right behind him all through middle school and high school, but now, in our junior year, the chance I'd been waiting for arrived, and I grabbed it with both hands.

He dressed for football practice quickly and scurried out of the locker room. Yeah, he was afraid of me now and he had every right to be. I'd always wondered how he'd managed to out shine me in the weight room. No one was more dedicated to working out than I was. I could out bench, out curl, out press, and out everything of all my teammates, except Paxton. I'd finally discovered his secret, though, thanks to Wyatt Maxwell's big mouth. Steroids!

Wyatt hadn't been all that much in the build department at the end of the last school year, but he'd returned totally ripped. He didn't have a body like Paxton or me, but he was closing in fast. I'd cornered him just after practice only the day before and coerced him into admitting that he'd been doing steroids. The real golden moment came, however, when he told me he was supplied by Paxton Ward, and that Paxton had been doing them for years.

I paid a little visit to Paxton that night and confronted him. He denied it, of course, but then I reminded him that steroid use would show up in a drug test and that he'd surely be tested if someone turned him into Coach Benson. It was the moment I'd been waiting for since the seventh grade. I had him by the balls and he knew it.

"You wouldn't tell him, would you?" he had asked me, his voice shaking.

"Not if you do what I tell you from now on," I said, slapping him on the back. "That's not too much to ask for keeping such a tremendous secret now, is it, Paxton? After all, you're hoping for a football scholarship and maybe a career in the NFL, right? We're talking about millions of bucks at stake, Paxton. You've got a very valuable secret there. Of course, you might not make it as a pro, but you could still coach or something. I know how you love football. You can kiss all that goodbye if someone finds out about the steroids, though."

"What…" He paused and swallowed hard. "What do you want from me, Bryce?"

"I'll have to think about that," I said. "Just think about it, though; wouldn't you be willing to do just about anything to realize your dreams?"

I'd left him with that thought. He'd eyed me fearfully in class, at lunch, and just now in the locker room. He had the look of a rabbit timidly scurrying around a lion, hoping it didn't become supper. It was a good look for him.

Wyatt had acted more or less normal all day until he entered the locker room. Obviously, he and Paxton had talked sometime after lunch. He had developed that frightened bunny look, too, and I reveled in it. He wasn't an adversary who had to be eliminated like Paxton, but he was a rising star and it was most necessary to keep him in his place. Now that I was moving into the top spot, I'd have to watch my back more than ever.

I pulled on my jock, then my pants, carefully trying the laces. Brendan Barrett just about knocked me over, hopping up and down on one foot while trying to pull off the shoe of his other foot, the dumbass. I didn't say anything to him, but glared at him to let him know I was higher in the food chain. Sometimes guys had to be reminded where they stood. He mumbled a quick "sorry," and lowered his eyes, so I was appeased for the moment.

I looked across the locker room at Jack Philips. He was another Beta Male I'd have to put in his place soon. He was nicely built. He wasn't anywhere near the level of Paxton and me, but he had a nice body. He also had a cute face. He was downright pretty. He'd never given me any real trouble, but I could sense something from him. I didn't think he quite knew his place, so he'd have to be reminded. Order had to be maintained.

Devin Lewis smiled at me as he pulled on his jersey and exited the locker room. Devin was our quarterback and team captain. He wasn't the Alpha Male, but he was a kick ass football player. No one could touch him on the field, and I had to admit he was even more talented than I was. He was a senior, so he'd be out of the way next season. Paxton and I had been vying for the quarterback position for next year, but the second I found out he was on steroids that contest had ended. Next year I could look forward to being team captain and quarterback. It was a damned shame I couldn't take over from Devin this year, but who knew. With Paxton under control, just about anything was possible.

I smiled as I grabbed my helmet and walked out of the locker room. In a single evening Paxton had fallen, and Wyatt, even though he was only beginning to realize it, had placed himself under my thumb. I felt like a king who had just brought his barons under control. I could rule now with virtually absolute power.

I breathed in the crisp fall air as I ran toward the field. Ah, football weather! I loved football. It gave me a real chance to show the other guys my stuff. I loved the rush of plowing into an opponent and knocking him on his ass. I loved shoving my way through the defensive line to snatch the ball from a running back. I loved to score. I loved feeling my muscles tense and flex. Practice was a lot of hard work, sure, but it was fun as well. I laughed at the guys who moaned about how tough it was. Pussies!

We ran laps first. As always, Paxton and I were the front runners. He had always been just a bit faster than me. I could outdo him on a few exercises in the weight room, despite his steroids, but I could never take him on the track. Beginning today, however, there was a new order. As we raced around the track, I looked over at him and said, "fall back." That's all it took. He fell back a couple of paces behind me. Never again would he run in front of me. Never again would he best me in anything.

Now, you might think mine was a hollow victory, but you'd be wrong. Do you really think I give a fuck what you think, anyway? Don't make me laugh. Yeah, he had to fall back because of what I had on him, but it was still his talents being outdone by mine. He had made a stupid mistake, not in pumping himself up with drugs, but in sharing them with Wyatt and thereby losing a grip on his deepest, darkest secret. I'd never be that stupid. I had a secret of my own that would blow him out of the water, but I'd never foolishly reveal it, as he had his. No one would ever get the drop on me. I beat him as we ran around the track, not because I was faster, but because I was smarter. Competition involved more than brute strength. If he had known that, he might have remained the Alpha Male.

Scrimmages. I loved running scrimmages. It was almost as fun as an actual game. I smiled as I faced my opponent, Jack Philips. He was an offensive lineman, and I was playing linebacker on defense. It was the perfect opportunity to put him in his place.

He mistook my smile for friendliness and grinned back. I'd seen him use his smile like a weapon to disarm people. He could charm the pants off most people because he was so good looking. Even Ms. Neeley cut him slack. Ms. Sanchez, the art teacher practically fawned over him. There were rumors floating around that he slept with her. I didn't know if it was true or not. I wanted to ask, but I didn't want to give him any suspicion that I thought he might have the prowess to seduce a teacher. Besides, I'd never know for sure if he told me the truth anyway, so it was pointless. There were a lot of bullshit rumors floating around the school at all times, but I kind of believed this one. Ms. Sanchez was divorced, in her early thirties, and a looker. I could see how Jack would go for her. A lot of boys lusted after her. I could see why she'd be attracted to him, too. He had a muscular chest, sexy abs, that pretty face of his, and light blond hair. A guy like that was probably a divorcees dream. The whole forbidden aspect of such a relationship made him hard to resist, I'm sure.

Paxton snapped the ball to Devin, and I plowed into Jack. I drove my shoulder right into his chest and lifted him off the ground before knocking him on his ass. I struggled through the defensive line, trying to sack Devin, but he handed the ball off to Landon, who fumbled before I got anywhere. Coach Benson shouted some instructions and we lined up again.

Jack looked slightly fearful and he took up his position across from me. I was satisfied with his expression. It meant he feared me, but not enough yet. The Beta Male needed another lesson.

I slammed him again, setting him on his back. I dropped on him and lay full length on top of him.

"What's the matter, pretty boy, can't take the heat," I said in a stage whisper.

"Get off me," he spat out.

I just lay on top of him, keeping him trapped beneath me for a few more seconds, letting him know who was in control. Yeah, I bet you do Ms. Sanchez, I thought, then got up.

Later, I could tell I'd made an impression on him. His expression was sullen as we showered away the grime and sweat of practice. I could practically read his mind. He was just itching to get back at me, but he knew he couldn't take me, so he was feeling all vengeful and frustrated. Guys like that could be a problem, but Jack wasn't anything I couldn't handle. Yeah, he might jump on me to try and prove he was tough, and I might be the recipient of a vicious punch or two, but he'd get the worse of it by far, and when we were through, he'd limp off with his tail between his legs. If he wanted to start something, I was ready for him.

"What are you looking at, Philips? You want some of this?" I asked, grabbing my package and giving it a squeeze.

"Fuck you, McKenzie!"

"No way, Jack! I told you before; you wanna have sex with me, you gotta be the bitch!"

That got some laughs, and he turned red. He gave up on his war of words. He was clearly outmatched. I thought about egging him on some more, but enough was enough. I'd shown him who was boss. He couldn't out fight me, physically or mentally.

I let the hot water pour down on my tired muscles. Steam rose up around me and my teammates, obscuring my view somewhat. I enjoyed the scenery in the showers. What was not to like about muscular jocks, all soapy and wet? In case you're wondering, you got it right; I'm gay. You know my deepest, darkest secret, the one that could cost me everything, but you can't do shit about it, so I don't care if you know or not. If my teammates found out, it would be a whole different story. I would be dead meat then. They'd gang up and pound me, and there are plenty of them just dying to do it, too. They won't get their chance, however, because unlike dumbass Paxton, I guard my secret well. I don't give a flying fuck If you know about it or not, because like I said, you can't do shit about it, and even if you somehow managed to tell, I'd track you down and make you sorry. Make no mistake about that. See, all boxes are covered. No one scores on Bryce.

I've known I swing towards guys for about three years now, ever since I was thirteen. That's when I went through puberty and became the real me. I was okay before that. I was an athletic kid and involved in every sport possible. It wasn't until puberty took over that I really came into my own, though. When I saw the first real bulges developing in my arms and chest, I knew I wanted more. I began to seriously work out. Some of my friends lifted, but they were just doing kid stuff. They weren't dedicated like me. That's why three years later, none of them had a body like me, except Paxton, and he cheated with drugs. He was already paying the price for that, though, and the cost was only going to climb. Yeah, I had plans for him.

Knowing I was gay and doing something about it were two different things. If you were gay in Chouteau, you might as well have been a serial killer or a child molester, or someone who collected human hearts or something like that. I was already popular at thirteen, but I knew all that would disappear so fast it would make my head spin if anyone found out. I'd always gone after what I wanted in life, but guys had to be the exception. What I wanted more than anything in the world was a naked boy, but that's just what I couldn't have. It was far too dangerous. I'm brave, but not stupid you know. I'd never put the moves on another guy, just like I wouldn't go to the zoo and climb into a cage with a grizzly bear. Some things just can't be done.

I'm a complete virgin with guys. Girls are another matter, though. I've learned to make do. I got my first blow job right before I turned fourteen, and I went all the way with a girl about three months after that. Since then, I've done plenty, but always with girls. Luckily, I can close my eyes and think of someone like Jack Philips when a girl is getting on her knees for me, or lying under me in the back seat of my car. Yeah, that's right, Jack. Why do you think I give his such a hard time? I want him, and I want him bad. I can't have him, so I make do with tormenting him and getting a feel of his body after I knock him on his ass in practice.

Popping wood in the locker room or showers isn't a good thing, but I have amazing control over my own body. Just ask the girls I've been with. Occasionally, one of the guys springs some wood in the showers, and it's open season on him for a while. Words like 'faggot' and 'homo' are slung at him, but no one really means it. Pretty much everyone has it happen to them some time or other. No one wants to get too nasty because they know they could be next. Heaven help any guy who gets excited too often, though. He'd be marked as a fag, and that would be the end of him.

You can bet I snap all the mental snapshots possible when one of the guys does unwillingly show his stuff in all it's glory. I'm proud to say that I'm very nearly the biggest. Only Wyatt Maxwell has me beat. I saw him stiff a couple of times, and he has probably half an inch more. I guess it doesn't matter, since we're both hung like horses, but I can't help wishing for another inch just to have more than he does.

As much as I enjoyed the scenery in the showers, I couldn't stay in there too long. Lingering could raise suspicions. Besides, the sights were nearly as good in the locker room. I mean, it's hard to beat a buff guy wearing only a jockstrap.

Shayne handed me a towel from behind his counter, which was the bottom half of one of those doors where the top and bottom can open separately. I don't know what they're called, but anyway, he checked me out as he gave me my towel, as he always did. He was one stupid kid. I just pretended I didn't notice because I didn't care if he looked at my stuff or not, but he was playing with dynamite. I know there had to be other gay guys at our school, but, like me, they had the good sense to stay hidden. Shayne was way to o open in checking out guys. Sooner or later, something bad would come of it.

I took my towel and walked to my locker. I dried off, then began to dress. I always put on my shirt last because I want to give the other guys plenty of opportunity to see my bare chest. Me showing off my torso is kind of like a lion roaring; it lets everyone know who's boss.

I grinned when I remembered I was truly in control now. Paxton was history. He stole looks at me while he was dressing. The expression on his face was a mix of fear, nervousness, and anger. I loved every second of it.

"Bryce, uh, Wyatt and me want to talk to you alone," Paxton said quietly after he'd finished dressing.

"That's fine," I said. "I've got something to talk to you guys about, too."

So, they wanted to meet with me alone in the locker room. I could see where this was going. Thank god Paxton didn't write novels. His plot lines would have been totally predictable.

Paxton and Wyatt stood together at one end of the locker room, talking in low voices while they waited for the other guys to clear out. I went ahead and put on my shirt. I didn't need brawn for the upcoming confrontation. I pulled an unsealed plain white envelope out of my locker and set it down on top of my backpack.

A few minutes later, the three of us were alone. They both faced me, their arms crossed over their chests. Their stance and demeanor would have intimidated the hell out of anyone else, but not me. It was all I could do to keep from laughing.

"We need to talk," said Paxton.

"You told me that already. So, talk."

"It's simple math," said Paxton. "There are two of us and one of you. Yeah, you've got something on us, but if you breathe one word about it, we'll fuck you up good."

"Not bad," I said. "If you flexed your forearms a little as you said it, you'd come off a bit more intimidating."

"I'm not kidding, Bryce! You tell anyone and we'll beat the shit out of you. You can't take us both."

"Oh, I know you're serious, Paxton, but the truth of the matter is that I can take you both. That's a moot point, however, as this isn't coming to blows."

"Huh? Moot?"

"It means it doesn't matter, because it's not going to happen."

"So, you've decided to keep your mouth shut?" asked Wyatt.

"I told Paxton how it was going to be last night. Despite your lame attempt at intimidation, nothing has changed. You guys do what I want and I'll keep your dirty little secret. I don't know how desperate you are to stay on the team, Wyatt, but I know how much it means to Paxton."

"You're not listening," snarled Paxton.

"Oh, I assure I you I am, but, like I said, nothing's changed. Here," I said, taking the envelope from the top of my backpack and handing it to him.

"What's this?"

"This is a letter detailing your steroid use. I've given copies to a few of my… associates. Oh, don't worry, their copies are sealed, but if anything happens to me, say, I was murdered, or just disappeared, or something like that, well, the letters will be mailed to Coach, the school board, and the cops."

Paxton ripped the letter out of the envelop and read it, his fists crushing the paper as he gripped it. He looked up at me, an angry sneer on his face.

"Do you really think I didn't know you'd try to team up with Wyatt against me? I know how desperate you are to protect your secret. I've threatened to expose you, so, of course, you're willing to do whatever it takes to keep me from talking. I'm way ahead of you, though, Paxton, and the sooner you learn that, the better off you'll be. There's only one way you're going to keep me silent, and that's my way."

I slung my backpack over my shoulder.

"I have to get going or I'll be late for work, but I think we understand each other. You can keep that copy if you like, but I wouldn't leave it lying around if I were you. You've been far too careless already," I said with a pointed look at Wyatt.

Paxton scowled at Wyatt as if only then realizing what had led to his downfall.

"Oh, and by the way," I said, just before leaving. "If you two try to pull any shit like this again, I'll make you pay. I'll make you very sorry. See you later, guys."

I turned my back on them and walked out, quite satisfied with myself. The whole thing was almost too easy.

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